Local News

USFW Supervisor Forced to Remind Employees That Human Safety Comes First

Aug 29, 2018

In the wake of a July 12th incident in Okanogan County where a 25-year-old Forest Service employee was treed by wolves, and three times a WDFW Law Enforcement officer refused to allow a DNR Dispatcher to send a helicopter to rescue her, a top wildlife official has sent out a memo to employees reminding them that human lives and human safety come first before listed species. 

During the incident, deputies from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office had been told to “stand down,” and one deputy was threatened with jail time if he “harassed” a federally listed species while he was trying to conduct a follow up investigation the next day.

After nearly thirty minutes of arguing with WDFW officials, DNR officials decided to “launch the rotor,” and deal with WDFW later, sending the aircraft on the 14 minute flight from the Omak airport.

The Okanogan County Commissioners and Sheriff Frank Rogers, met with officials from the WDFW and USFW Service on July 30th to discuss the incident and discuss ways to keep this from happening again.

Following that meeting, the Assistant Regional Director’s office for the US Fish and Wildlife Service sent out the memo and requested that not only did all employees need to read the memo and discuss it with their immediate supervisor, but that they also sign a roster indicating that they have read it and understand it. The memo went to all Region One employees in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Hawaii.

The memo states, “This memorandum is to remind you that safety is the prime directive in emergency situation. The Service recognizes that protection of human life and safety are the top priority in emergencies, including during response to fire or other natural disasters, or in case of a direct threat to human safety from a federally protected species.”

The memo goes on to say, “Under no circumstances should the Emergency Consultation process under the Endangered Species Act obstruct an emergency response where human life is at stake. Furthermore,” it reads, in the event of an emergency, the Service recognizes and supports the authority of non US FW Service law enforcement entities, such as staff of the local County Sheriff’s office, to conduct investigations in response to human safety emergencies. The memo states, “Service employees are reminded to partner and fully support these law enforcement entities at all times.”

In sending out the memo to Washington based employees, Acting State Supervisor Brad Thompson instructed employees that it is not their job to question whether a given situation is an emergency, especially if human life or safety may be at risk.

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